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Archive for the ‘bread’


Panzanella 0

Posted on August 25, 2014 by Sahar

Panzanella is one of those dishes that simply screams summer.  It is at its best when tomatoes are in season, and, especially, fresh from your own garden.

Panzanella (literally meaning “bread in a small basket) is a Tuscan recipe that, before the 20th Century, was based on onions, bread, olive oil, and basil.  It wasn’t until the 20th Century that tomatoes were added; no doubt out of desperation and poverty.

The earliest known description of Panzanella is by the painter Angolo di Cosimo (“Bronzino”; 1503 – 1572).  He sings the praises of onions with oil and vinegar served with toast and, a page later, speaks of a salad of onions, purslane, and cucumbers.

The best things about this recipe? It’s easy, fast, and there’s no cooking involved. More reasons it’s perfect for summer.

(some information from wikipedia.org)

A few notes:

1.  This should go without saying, but use the best ingredients you can find and/or afford.  Panzanella traditionally has few ingredients, so they all need to shine.  There’s no way to mask indifferent ingredients in this recipe.

2.  Use at least day-old bread.  If your bread is too fresh, it will become gummy.  Also, use a good European-style crusty bread.  Most American-style breads don’t have the hard crust needed.

3.  Some Panzanella recipes soak the bread in water and then squeeze it out before using.  Others will have the bread soak in olive oil.  I use the latter method.  I prefer some bite to my bread; I find the water method makes the bread too soggy for my taste.  However, if the bread you are using is very hard, then the water method may be the way to go. Be sure to slice the bread into thick slices and soak for about 20 minutes.  Squeeze out the water before cutting or tearing the bread. (Perhaps even do half-and-half water and tomato juice.)

4.  The traditional Tuscan recipe has tomatoes, onions, basil, bread, olive oil, salt & pepper.  However, other recipes may include: cucumbers, lettuce, olives, fresh mozzarella, celery, carrots, parsley, chopped eggs, tuna, anchovies, bell peppers, lemon juice, red wine vinegar, anchovies, and garlic.  A Tuscan would frown upon these additions; however, feel free to add them if you like. (I do use garlic. Sometimes red wine vinegar.)

5.  This salad is really best the day it’s made.  You can eat it the next day (just let it come to room temperature after you take it out of the fridge), but the bread will be soggy.  Unless that’s what you prefer.

 

The ingredients

The ingredients (the tomatoes I chose to use were small-to-medium sized, but they still added up to roughly 2 lbs.)

1 med. loaf day-old (at least) crusty bread, torn or cut into bite-sized pieces

The cubed bread. I used an Italian rustic whole-wheat bread.

The cubed bread. I used an Italian rustic whole-wheat bread.

6 large tomatoes (approximately 2 lbs.), roughly chopped (don’t seed the tomatoes; you want the juice)

1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil, more if needed

1 bu. basil, chopped or torn

2 cl. garlic, minced

1/2 of a medium red onion, very thinly sliced

Salt & Pepper to taste

 

1.  Mix together the bread, tomatoes, and olive oil.  Mix thoroughly and let sit for at least 20 minutes or up to 1 hour at room temperature.

The first three ingredients mixed together. Now, the waiting begins.

The first three ingredients mixed together. Now, the waiting begins.

2.  Add the remaining ingredients and combine thoroughly.  Taste for seasoning and saturation of the bread.  Adjust as needed.  Serve immediately.

Buon Appetito!

Buon Appetito!

Typically, this is served alone.  However, it will go well with just about any protein – especially grilled meat.

 

Enjoy!

 

 

 

Fattoush فتوش 1

Posted on June 24, 2014 by Sahar

Fattoush is another one of those Middle Eastern salads can be as simple or as complex as you like.  It is ubiquitous throughout the region, including Turkey.  While it can contain different ingredients, the base is always stale toasted or fried bread.

The word Fattoush comes from a mix of Arabic (fatt فت – meaning “broken”) and Turkish (ush).

The chief ingredients are generally tomatoes, cucumber, onions, parsley, mint, olive oil, and lemon.  Other ingredients can be radishes, lettuce, cabbage, bell peppers, pickled chiles, olives, sumac, garlic, and pomegranate syrup.

 

A few notes:

1.  While I have given some measurements here, there are no hard and fast rules other than the bread.

2.  English (hothouse) or Persian cucumbers are preferable.  They have less water, fewer seeds, and don’t need to be peeled.  If you need to use the more familiar salad cucumber, then you will need to peel it (the skin is tough and usually waxed) and scoop out the seeds.

3.  If you use large tomatoes, be sure to seed them.  If you use cherry tomatoes, don’t bother with seeding.  Just cut them in half.

4.  Curly parsley is more traditional.  However, flat leaf (Italian) is fine.

5.  If you use garlic, use less than you think you need.  Raw garlic is powerful stuff and can easily take over the rest of the salad.

6.  You don’t need to cut the vegetables fine.  They can simply be chopped.

 

The Ingredients

The Ingredients

 

2 loaves pita bread, preferably day-old

1 cucumber, preferably hothouse (English) -or- 2-3 Persian cucumbers, cut into large dice or sliced roughly 1/4″ thick

2 large tomatoes, seeded and chopped -or- 1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, cut in half

3 scallions, thinly sliced

1 bunch parsley, chopped

1 bunch mint, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

Juice of 2 lemons, or to taste

1/4 – 1/3 c. extra virgin olive oil

Salt & Pepper to taste

 

1.  Prepare the bread: If you are toasting the bread, preheat the oven to 450F.  Split the loaves around the outside edge.

Splitting the bread. A serrated knife is especially helpful with this task.

Splitting the bread. A serrated knife is especially helpful with this task.

Don’t worry if the loaves aren’t split cleanly.  You’ll be breaking them up after they’ve been toasted.

The split loaves. if they;re not perfext, don't worry. They're going to get broken up anyway.

The split loaves. if they’re not perfect, don’t worry. They’re going to get broken up anyway.

Place the split bread directly on the oven rack and let toast until it is a golden brown.  Try not to let the bread get too dark or will add a bitter flavor to the finished salad.  It should take about 2 – 3 minutes for the bread to toast.

The toasted bread. Once it's cooled, break it up into bite-sized pieces.

The toasted bread. Once it’s cooled, break it up into bite-sized pieces.

Let the bread cool and then break it up into bite-sized pieces.  I generally like to accomplish this by putting the bread into a large zip bag and breaking it up. No mess and the bag can be re-used.

If you decide to fry the bread, heat your oil to 375F.  A mix of vegetable and olive oil works well for the flavor. (use pure olive oil, not extra virgin.) Cut the bread into bite-sized pieces and separate them.  Fry the bread in batches until golden brown.  Drain on paper towels and set aside.

2.  Place all of the prepared vegetables in a large bowl.  Add the bread and toss.  Add the olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper and toss again.  Taste for seasoning.

The vegetables ready for the bread and seasonings.

The vegetables ready for the bread and seasonings.

Let the salad sit for about 15 minutes, then serve.

Sahtein!

Sahtein!

 

The salad will keep for a day or two in the refrigerator, but it’s really best the day it’s made.

 

سحتين!

 

French Onion Soup 0

Posted on December 09, 2013 by Sahar

Soup has been around probably as long as people have been eating.  It’s cheap, filling, restorative, and democratic.

Onion soups have been popular at least as far back as Roman times. They were, throughout history, seen as food for poor people, since onions were plentiful, easy to grow, and considered a restorative food.

The modern version of Onion Soup originates in France in the 18th C., made from softened onions and, traditionally, beef broth. Onion soups are likewise found  in early English cookbooks and American cookbooks from colonial days to present.It is often finished by being placed under a grill in a ramekin with croutons and Gruyère melted on top. The crouton on top is reminiscent of using bread as “sops”.

Here are a couple of examples of early written Onion Soup recipes:

[1651: France]
“Potage of onion.
Cut your onions into very thin slices, fry them with butter, and after they are fried put them into a pot with water or with pease broth. After they are well sod, put in it a crust of bread and let it boile a very little; you may put some capers in it. Dry your bread then stove it; take up, and serve with one drop of vinegar.”
The French Cook, Francois Pierre La Varenne, [1651] Englished by I.D.G. 1653, Introduced by Philip and Mary Hyman [Southover Press:East Sussex] 2001 (p. 130)

[1869: France]
“Onion Soup.
Peel 2 good-sized onions (say 7 oz.), cut them, in halves and then crosswise, in thin shreds:
Blanch, in boiling water, for five minutes, to remove their acrid flavour;
Put in a 6-inch stewpan, with 1 1/2 oz. of butter;
Stir over a brisk fire, and, when the onion becomes of a light brown colour, add a tablespoonful of flour, say 1 oz.;
Keep on the fire for two minutes longer;
Add: 1 quart of water; 2 pinches of salt; and 2 small ones of pepper;
Stir till boiling;
Simmer, for five minutes, on the stove corner; taste the seasoning;
Put in the soup-tureen 2 ox. of sliced dried roll, and 1 oz. of butter; our in the soup, stirring gently with a spoon to dissolve.
Serve.”
The Royal Cookery Book (Le Livre de Cuisine) , Jules Gouffe, translated from the French and adapted for English Use by Alphonse Gouffe [Sampson Low, Son, and Marston:London] 1869 (p. 38-9)

(sources: www.wikipedia.org, www.foodtimeline.org)

 

************************************************************************************************************************* A few notes:

For myself, I like a lot of onions in my soup; almost stew-like.  If you prefer a brothier soup, either reduce the amount of onions or increase the broth.

Because onions do sweeten as they cook down, I don’t recommend using sweet onions like 1015’s, Vidalias, or Mauis.  They will make the soup too sweet.  Regular yellow onions are just fine. Plus, they’re cheaper.

This soup is traditionally made with beef broth.  However, you can use chicken or turkey broth if you want a lighter soup.  Or, use vegetable broth to make this vegetarian (or vegan if you omit the Gruyère or use soy cheese).

The best bread to use with this soup is a good crusty European-style bread like a baguette, ciabatta, pain au levain, etc.  These will hold up quite well if you decide to make the soup a gratin.

 

The Ingredients

The Ingredients

2 tbsp. Olive Oil

5 lbs. onions, sliced about 1/4″ thick

4 cl. garlic, minced

1 tsp. sugar

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. dried thyme

1/2 c. dry white wine or unsweetened apple cider (optional)

4 c. beef broth or vegetable broth

Salt & Pepper to taste

Toasted bread or your favorite crackers

Shredded Gruyère, Emmenthal, or Swiss cheese

 

1.  Heat the olive oil in a stockpot or large saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add the onions, garlic, and the 1 teaspoon sugar and 1 teaspoon salt (these will help release the water from the onions and make them wilt more quickly).

The onions. I was quite weepy when I finished slicing.

The onions. I was quite weepy when I finished slicing.

Stir until the onions begin to heat through, turn the heat down to medium-low, cover and begin wilting the onions.

Covering the onions. This steams the onions and helps them to wilt more quickly at the beginning of the cooking process.

Covering the onions. This steams the onions and helps them to wilt more quickly at the beginning of the cooking process.

2.  After the first 30 minutes (stirring after each 15 minutes), uncover the onions (there will be a lot of liquid; it will cook down), add the thyme, and continue cooking until the onions are cooked down as much as you prefer, stirring every 15 minutes.  (If you are cooking your onions until they become very soft, you will want to stir them more often as they soften so they don’t begin to burn.)

After 15 minutes. The onions have begun to soften and release their liquid.

After 15 minutes. The onions have begun to soften and release their liquid.

After 30 minutes. More wilted and more liquid.

After 30 minutes. More wilted and more liquid.

Adding the thyme.

Adding the thyme.

At 45 minutes.  I generally cook them further down than this.  However, at this point, it's up to you how much further you'd like to go.

At 45 minutes. I generally cook them further down than this. However, at this point, it’s up to you how much further you’d like to go.

At 1 hour.  This is usually where I'll stop. I don't necessarily want the onions caramelized, just very soft and sweet.

At 1 hour. This is usually where I’ll stop. I don’t necessarily want the onions caramelized, just very soft and sweet.

You want your onions to be soft, but not necessarily caramelized.

3.  Once the onions are cooked to your preference, increase the temperature to medium-high, add the white wine or apple cider (if using) and cook until the wine has evaporated.

Adding the wine.  Let this cook down until most of it has evaporated.  If you don't want to use wine, use unsweetened apple cider.   Or, omit this step all together.

Adding the wine. Let this cook down until most of it has evaporated.
If you don’t want to use wine, use unsweetened apple cider.
Or, omit this step all together.

4.  Add the broth and bring to a boil.  Lower the heat to medium and cook for 30 minutes.  Taste for seasoning.

Adding the broth. You can also use chicken or vegetable broths.

Adding the broth. You can also use chicken or vegetable broths.

5.  If you want to do the more traditional serving method, here it goes:  Turn on your oven to broil and place the rack in the top position. Ladle the soup into oven-proof bowls (the best bowls are ones that have handles; you can buy these at any restaurant supply – if you don’t have bowls with handles, place them on a baking sheet), place a piece of the toasted bread in the center and sprinkle on a healthy amount of the cheese.  Place the bowls under the broiler for just a minute or two so until the cheese melts and gets brown and bubbly.  Carefully remove the bowls from the oven and serve.

If you don’t want to go that route, simply serve the soup with the bread and cheese on the side.

The best breads to use are crusty, day-old, European-style.  This is one I made a couple of days before.

The best breads to use are crusty, day-old, European-style. This is one I made a couple of days before.

Grated Gruyere. You can also use Emmenthaler or Swiss cheeses as well.  I'm not sure why these became the most common cheeses for Onion Soup, but they are perfect.

Grated Gruyere. You can also use Emmenthal or Swiss cheeses as well. I’m not sure why these became the most common cheeses for Onion Soup, but they are perfect.

I prefer to serve my soup this way.  Bread on the side with the cheese on top of the soup.  I find it easier to eat and a whole lot less mess to clean up.  Of course, if you prefer the more traditonal gratin method, go for it.

I prefer to serve my soup this way. Bread on the side with the cheese on top of the soup. I find it easier to eat and a whole lot less mess to clean up. Of course, if you prefer the more traditonal gratin method, go for it.

 

Enjoy and stay warm!

 

 

My Arabic Breakfast فطوري العربية 3

Posted on September 30, 2013 by Sahar

One of the great things about having a parent, or parents, who were born and/or grew up in another country is getting to learn and experience mores, manners, customs, and, yes, food that are different than what you might experience daily in the wider world.

My sisters and I grew up with just such a parent.  Our father is Palestinian.  He’s originally from a town called Nablus.  When he was born, it was a part of  western Jordan. Now it is in the Occupied West Bank under the supervision of the Palestinian Authority.  Dad came to the US in 1960 to go to college.  Eventually, he met and married our mom, graduated from college with an engineering degree, co-raised three girls without losing his mind, worked for the same company for 40 years, and happily retired.

Along the way, Dad did impart in us some of his old-world wisdom.  Or, at least tried to.  And while we didn’t always appreciate the lessons he tried to teach – especially Arabic, which I’m still struggling to learn – we always appreciated the food.

And while my sisters and I certainly ate with glee the kibbeh, sayadieh (fish with rice), mjudarah (lentils and rice), mishi waraq (stuffed grape leaves), and knaffeh (sweet  shredded phyllo dough with cheese) our parents made (Mom and Dad each have their specialties), we especially enjoyed breakfast with unrestrained glee.

Breakfast at my aunt's home in Jordan

Breakfast at my aunt’s home in Jordan

Breakfast in the Middle East isn’t necessarily a rushed thing.  Well, it isn’t unless one has to rush off to work or school. Breakfast usually starts about 8 or 9 with a nice long chat over coffee.  Then, the food comes out.  It can be as simple as some jam, bread, and cheese on up to dips, za’atar (spice mix made with thyme, sumac, sesame seeds, and salt), fresh fruit and vegetables, olives, pickles, eggs, and occasionally leftovers from the night before.

Unlike in the West, coffee isn’t drunk at breakfast.  It’s used as an aperitif, digestive, at social gatherings, and with the desserts the Middle East is so famous for.  Juice, water, or hot sweet tea is drunk at breakfast.

Just to make you hungrier, here’s a picture of my family at the restaurant my cousin Salam owns with her husband. Tarweea. It serves breakfast 24 hours a day.  And it’s amazing.

The family at Tarweea. Damn good food. And company.

The family at Tarweea. Damn good food. And company.

So, welcome to my version of Arabic Breakfast.

***************************************************************************************************************************

The recipes I’m showing you are ubiquitous throughout the Middle East.  Like anywhere else, there are regional variations for each dish.  That being said, I’m going to show you the way I grew up eating these dishes and the recipes I learned Palestinian style.

The Ingredients

The Ingredients

I will be making several recipes in this post:  Ful Mudammas (Fava Bean Dip), Baba Ghannouj (Eggplant Dip), Tomatoes and Garlic Poached in Olive Oil (not sure if this is authentic, but my dad makes it on occasion), and Hummous (which I’ve already made for you, http://www.tartqueenskitchen.com/?cat=63).

Hummous. Mmm... Click on the above link to get the recipe.

Hummous. Mmm…
Click on the above link to get the recipe.

The additions will be some lovely olives and turnip pickles:

olives, pickles, cucumber

Clockwise from top: Persian cucumbers, turnip pickles (the red color comes from a beet put into the brine), Moroccan Oil Cured Olives, Lebanese Green Olives

Plates of olive oil and za’atar.

Olive Oil and Za'atar

Olive Oil and Za’atar

Bread is dipped in the olive oil and then the za’atar.  It has a wonderful savory-slightly tart flavor.  Some people will also make a paste of the two, spread it on bread and toast the bread until the top is nice and bubbly.  It’s divine.

We also have some lebneh.  It is essentially yogurt cheese.  A lovely, delightfully slightly sour treat. Try it spread on bread with some tomato. Oh. Yeah.

Lebneh in olive oil. This stuff is the bomb.

Lebneh in olive oil. This stuff is the bomb.

Some farmers cheese is always essential on the table.  Jebne Nabulsi (Nablus Cheese) is our cheese of choice.  Farmers cheese is used in both sweet and savory dishes.  For sweet dishes, it’s usually boiled to remove the salt.  The cheese we get in the US is always packed in brine. If you’re able to buy it in Jordan, it’s much fresher. The difference is striking.

My favorite brand of Nabulsi Cheese. it's not too salty and cooks well.

My favorite brand of Nabulsi Cheese. it’s not too salty and cooks well.

 

The first recipe I’ll show you is for Ful (pronounced “fool”) Mudammas (فول مدمس).  It’s a breakfast dish made with fava beans. It’s a dish that’s been traced back to ancient Egypt and is still a very popular breakfast choice throughout the Middle East and parts of Africa.

Now, I use the canned ones.   However, if you want to use fresh or used soaked dry beans, it’s up to you.

The ingredients for Ful Mudammas.

The ingredients for Ful Mudammas.

1 can fava beans, drained, liquid reserved

1/4 c. onion, finely minced

2 cl. garlic, minced

2 – 4 (depending on size and heat level) tabasco or pepperoncini peppers, minced

1/4 c. parsley, minced

Salt and pepper to taste

Lemon to taste

Olive oil

additional minced parsley for garnish, optional

 

1.  In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, mix together the fava beans, onion, garlic, peppers,  about 2 – 3 tablespoons of the reserved liquid from the beans, and a pinch of salt & pepper.

Beans in the pot.

Beans in the pot.

Beans, onion, garlic, and peppers waiting to make me happy.

Beans, onion, garlic, and peppers ready to make magic.

Heat the mixture slowly, stirring occasionally.  Cook about 20 minutes.  Add more liquid if the beans become too dry.

Cooking the beans and vegetables. Be sure to not let the beans get too dry.

Cooking the beans and vegetables. Be sure to not let the beans get too dry.

2.  Once the mixture is cooked, taste it for seasoning and some lemon to taste.  Remove the saucepan from the heat and mash the beans, leaving some texture.  In other words, don’t make them a smooth mash.

Mashing the beans. Leave some texture. Don't make too smooth a mix.

Mashing the beans. Leave some texture. Don’t make too smooth a mix.

3.  Place the ful on a plate, drizzle over some olive oil and additional parsley.

The finished dish. Enticing, isn't it.

The finished dish. Enticing, isn’t it.

 

*********************

The next dish I’m going to show you is Baba Ghannouj (بابا غنوج.). It’s a smooth dip made with eggplant.  It can be served as a mezze, a salad, or a side dish.  It is sometimes served with sliced or finely diced vegetables on top.  Some will use parsley or mint.  In some parts of the Arab world, particularly Syria, pomegranate seeds or syrup are used as well.

Traditionally, the eggplant is grilled over an open flame until it’s soft and charred.  However, I’ve found the oven is an excellent alternative cooking source.

When buying eggplant, look for ones with a smooth unblemished skin and no soft spots.

The Ingredients

The Ingredients

1 eggplant

3 cl. garlic

1/4 c. tahineh, more if needed

Salt and lemon juice to taste

Olive oil for garnish

Pomegranate seeds or syrup for garnish, optional

Parsley for garnish, optional

 

1.  Prep the eggplant.  Heat your oven to 400F.  Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with non-stick spray.  Drizzle some olive oil on the bottom and spread to cover.

Take the eggplant, cut off the top, then cut in half lengthwise.

The eggplant. You want the flesh to be white to off white.  And not too seedy.  A lot of seeds can make the eggplant bitter.

The eggplant. You want the flesh to be white to off white. and firm. And not too seedy. A lot of seeds can make the eggplant bitter.

Place the eggplant cut side down on the baking sheet.  Drizzle to top with a little more oil and put in the oven.  Bake the eggplant until it’s soft, about 20 – 25 minutes.

Eggplant ready for the oven.

Eggplant ready for the oven.

2.  Meanwhile, if you are using pomegranate seeds, time to get the seeds out.

Hello.

Hello.

When buying a pomegranate, make sure there are no soft pots, the skin is smooth and free of blemishes, and be sure to check for pinholes in the skin.  That’s a sign of infestation or spoilage.  If you open a pomegranate and any of the seeds are brown or dried out, discard them.

Cut around the equator of the pomegranate just until you break through the skin.  Don’t cut all the way through or you’ll lose some seeds.

Pull the halves until they separate.  This takes a little doing, but it will happen.

An excellent pomegranate. The seeds are bright, red, and juicy. The membrane is firm and a nice creamy color.

An excellent pomegranate. The seeds are bright, red, and juicy. The membrane is firm and a nice creamy color.

I suggest wearing gloves for this next part. It is now time to separate the seeds from the membrane.  It’s really not difficult.  Just time consuming.  if you can remove the seeds in clusters, all the better.  The trick is to break as few seeds as possible and not include any of the membrane (edible, but very bitter).

Removing the seeds from the membrane.  Not difficult, but time consuming.

Removing the seeds from the membrane. Not difficult, but time consuming.

The remains.

The remains.

You will be rewarded for your hard work.

Your reward. They look like jewels.

Your reward. They look like jewels.

3.  Check the eggplant.  Give it a quick poke with your finger or a fork.  If it feels soft, it’s ready to come out of the oven.  Take the eggplant halves off the baking sheet and set aside until cool enough to handle.

The baked eggplant.  You want the char.  It adds a smky flavor to the final dish.  However, be sure not to let the eggplant burn.

The baked eggplant. You want the char. It adds a smoky flavor to the final dish. However, be sure not to let the eggplant burn.

4.  when the eggplant is cool enough to handle, carefully peel off the skin and discard.

Peeling the skin off the eggplant.

Peeling the skin off the eggplant.

Place the peeled eggplant in a small bowl or dish.  Set aside.

5.  With a food processor running, drop the garlic cloves down through the feed tube and chop them.

The chopped garlic.

The chopped garlic.

Add the eggplant, tahineh, and a little salt.

Ready to mix.

Ready to mix.

Puree the ingredients until a smooth consistency is achieved.  Add a little lemon juice through the feed tube while the machine is running.  When the lemon is mixed in, taste the baba ghannouj for seasoning.

6.  Place the baba ghannouj into a bowl and garish with a little olive oil, some parsley, and a few of the pomegranate seeds.

This is delicious. And I don't like eggplant.

This is delicious. And I don’t like eggplant.

*************************************

As for the Poached Tomatoes and Garlic, I really don’t know if it’s an authentic part of the meal.  However, I remember my dad making this dish from time to time, so I do, too.  My husband and I  like this dish, so I make it for that reason as well.

The ingredients

The ingredients

 

4 large tomatoes, quartered, core (blossom end) cut out, and seeded

10 – 12 cloves garlic, smashed

3/4 c. olive oil

1 tsp. salt

 

1.  Place all the ingredients in a large skillet or shallow saucepan over low heat.

The ingredients ready to be poached.

The ingredients ready to be poached.

2.  While the ingredients cook, you can mash them a bit if you like. Just cook until the tomatoes have completely broken down, about 30 minutes.

Cooking down the tomatoes and garlic.

Cooking down the tomatoes and garlic.

All done.  Yes, it's a lot of olive oil. It tastes lovely.

All done. Yes, it’s a lot of olive oil. It tastes lovely.

***********************************

Fried Nabulsi Cheese

1.  Take a few pieces of the Nabulsi cheese and cut them into smaller pieces (I usually cut them in half crosswise and then again lengthwise).  Place them in a bowl and rinse with water several times until it runs clear.  Let the cheese soak in the water to remove some of the salt.

Some of the cheese. The shape and saltiness of the cheese depends on the brand,

Some of the cheese. The shape and saltiness of the cheese depends on the brand.

Soaking the cheese

Soaking the cheese

Before you get ready to fry the cheese, take it out of the water and drain on paper towels.

2.  In a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat, melt 2 tablespoons of butter with 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Once the butter starts to foam, place a few pieces of the cheese in the skillet to cook.  Cook until each side is golden brown.

Frying the cheese. Not the most healthy way to cook it, but hey, why not?

Frying the cheese. Not the most healthy way to cook it, but hey, why not?

Drain the cooked cheese on paper towels and eat while still warm.  It doesn’t really keep once it’s cold.

Believe it or not, this is excellent on warm pita bread with a little jam.

Believe it or not, this is excellent on warm pita bread with a little jam.

**************************

Of course, the one indispensable ingredient for the whole meal. Bread. Khubuz خبز

 

The bread.  The most indespensible ingredient of all.

The bread. The most indispensable ingredient of all.

And, here is the final table.

The final table. Invite a few friends.

The final table. Invite a few friends.

Sahtein!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

French Toast 1

Posted on July 18, 2013 by Sahar

French Toast. One of the most decadent meals one could ever hope for. It’s a divine meal for breakfast, brunch, lunch, or, yes, dinner.

Admit it. Breakfast for dinner is the best.

Day-old bread soaked in a custard mixture, cooked slowly on a skillet, and served with butter, syrup, powdered sugar, whipped cream, and, even better, fresh fruit.  It’s the kind of meal that makes you want to go back to bed on a lazy weekend. I know I do.

But, is French Toast really French? Well, yes and no.  No one knows the true origins of the recipe.

Dating back to the 4th or 5th Century, Apicius is credited as having the earliest recipe for stale bread soaked in milk, but not eggs, and served with honey.It was named “aliter dulcia” – another sweet dish.

“Another sweet dish: Break fine white bread, crust removed, into rather large pieces which soak in milk. Fry in oil, cover with honey and serve.” –Cookery and Dining in Imperial Rome, edited and translated by Joseph Dommers Vehling

There are also references to the recipe in a 14th Century German recipe “Arme Ritter” – poor knights.  In the 15th Century, English recipes for “pain perdu” (French) – Lost/wasted bread (a reference to bread that has gone stale).  A similar dish, “suppe dorate” – guilded snippets – was popular in England during the Middle Ages, although the English might have learned it from the Normans (the French who invaded England in 1066) , who had a dish called “tostees dorees” – guilded bread.

“Take slices of white bread, trimmed so that they have no crusts; make these slices square and slightly grilled so that they are colored all over by the fire. Then take eggs beaten together with plenty of sugar and a little rose water; and put the slices of bread in this to soak; carefully remove them, and fry them a little in a frying pan with a little butter and lard, turning them very frequently so that they do not burn. The arrange them on a plate, and top with a little rose water colored yellow with a little saffron, and with plenty of sugar.”
The Medieval Kitchen, Recipes from France and Italy,

The Oxford English Dictionary cites 1660 as the year “French toast” first made an appearance, in a book called The Accomplisht Cook. That preparation, however, left out the eggs, in favor of soaking pre-toasted bread in a solution of wine, sugar, and orange juice. The Dictionary of American Food and Drink contends that the first egg-based recipe in print didn’t appear until 1870; throughout the tail end of the 19th Century, similar recipes appeared under the monikers “French toast,” “Egg toast,” “Spanish toast,” and even “German toast.”

A highly dubious creation myth holds that French toast owes its creation to an Albany, N.Y., innkeeper named Joseph French. Legend has it that French whipped up a batch of the golden-brown treats in 1724 and advertised them as “French toast” because he’d never learned to use an apostrophe “s.”

Some historical information from: www.todayifoundout.com, www.slate.com, www.wikipedia.org

 

In other words, a lot of speculation. But no one really knows.

Now, on to the recipe.

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A few notes:

1.  Use any type of bread you like.  When I was growing up, my mom used good old sliced white bread.  And it was delicious.  Now, I use my personal favorite, challah (Jewish Egg Bread).  Buttermilk, sourdough, brioche, and country-style are all excellent choices.

2.  Day-old bread is best.  If your bread is too fresh, it will fall apart when you soak it in the custard mixture.  If it is too dry, you’ll never be able to get the bread soaked through enough to have a moist slice of finished toast.

3.  Whole milk. Please.  Cream and Half & Half are too heavy.  2%, 1%, and Skim don’t have the richness or flavor you want. Plus, they won’t stand up to the heat.

4.  If you like, you can add about 1/2 – 1 teaspoon of cinnamon and/or nutmeg to the custard mixture.  I generally don’t, but, if you want to, go for it.

5.  I like to use my electric skillet to make French Toast.  The temperature is steady and easy to adjust as I need to.  If you prefer to use a skillet on the stove, keep the temperature at medium-low.  Yes, it takes a little extra time.  The results are worth it.

 

The Ingredients

The Ingredients

Beautiful Challah Bread.

Beautiful Challah Bread.

 

 

1 loaf day-old bread, sliced into 3/4″ – 1″ thick slices

6 eggs, well beaten

2 c. whole milk

1 tbsp. sugar

1 tbsp. vanilla extract

Butter, syrup, powdered sugar, whipped cream, fruit for serving (one, some, or all of these; up to you)

 

1.  Buy your bread a day or two before you decide to make the toast.  A few hours up to the night before, slice the bread into thick slices and lay out on racks.  This will let the bread dry out without over-drying. (If you slice the bread the night before and are afraid it might get too dry, cover the bread with a clean dish towel.  This will still allow for air circulation but keep the bread from over-drying.)

In a pinch, you can have your oven on low and place the sliced bread in there for an hour to quick-dry the bread as well.

Sliced bread.  Nice, thick slices.

Sliced bread. Nice, thick slices.

Drying the bread. The racks help with air circulation so the bread dries evenly.

Drying the bread. The racks help with air circulation so the bread dries evenly.

2.  In a large bowl, beat the eggs.  The need to be beaten well so that the whites, which can be notoriously hard to break down, are completely incorporated with the yolks.

The beaten eggs.  You want to be sure that the whites and yolks are fully incorporated.

The beaten eggs. You want to be sure that the whites and yolks are fully incorporated.

3.  Mix in the milk, sugar, and vanilla.

Adding the milk, vanilla, and sugar.

Adding the milk, vanilla, and sugar.

The custard ready for the bread.

The custard ready for the bread.

4.  Meanwhile, have either an electric skillet preheated to 275F or a non-stick skillet on the stove over medium-low heat.  (f you want to use a little unflavored oil or butter in the skillet, go ahead.  I generally don’t.)

5.  Take the bread, a slice or two at a time, and soak the bread.  Gently press on the bread to make sure the custard mixture is soaking completely through the slice.

Soaking the bread.

Soaking the bread. Gently press down to submerge the bread as completely as possible in the custard. Sometimes, you’ll see air bubbles coming up. That’s a good thing.  It means the liquid is displacing any air in the bread.

Flip the bread over and soak the other side.

Flipping over the bread.

Soaking the other side. When you press down, there should be no spring-back from the bread. Also, the area around the crust is more dense, so you may not get the same saturation as the rest of the slice.  That’s OK.

Carefully lift the bread out, allowing the excess custard to drip back into the bowl.  Lay the bread on a plate and repeat until you have enough to put into the skillet without crowding.

6.  Transfer the bread to the skillet and let it cook until it is golden brown on one side before flipping.  This will help keep the bread from falling apart and cook evenly.

The toast in the skillet. They key to cooking French Toast is low and slow.

The toast in the skillet. They key to cooking French Toast is low and slow.

Ready for its close-up. A lovely, dense, custard-filled slice of Challah. Yummy.

Ready for its close-up. A lovely, dense, custard-filled slice of Challah. Yummy.

Once the bread is browned, carefully flip it over.  Continue to cook the bread until it is golden brown on the other side as well.  It should also “puff” a bit in the center and, when you press it, it should bounce back, like a cake.

After flipping the toast. A lovely golden brown.

After flipping the toast. A lovely golden brown. After a few minutes, the centers should begin to puff up a bit, like a cake.

The finished toast. Notice the density and moistness of the bread. This is what you want.

The finished toast. Notice the density and moistness of the bread. This is what you want.

7.  Keep the toast in a warm oven while you finish cooking the rest.  Serve with any toppings you like and any sides you prefer.

Heated maple syrup and melted butter.  This is my preferred method of dressing my French Toast, waffles, and pancakes. it's just easier.

Heated maple syrup and melted butter. This is my preferred method of dressing my French Toast, waffles, and pancakes. it’s just easier.

Resistance is futile.

Resistance is futile.

 

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tomato Soup & Welsh Rarebit Souffles 1

Posted on May 23, 2013 by Sahar

“What exactly is Welsh Rarebit?” you’re probably asking yourself.

Most of us know this dish as basically cheese on toast.  Not a bad thing.

It’s actually a dish that was born of poverty in 18th Century Wales.  At that time, only the wealthiest could afford meat.  Cheese was the “meat” of the poor.  Over time, “Rarebit” became the bastardization of “rabbit”.

Most recipes that I’ve found contain some sort of alcohol, generally ale.  However, I wanted a recipe that didn’t have any alcohol.  And, I finally came across one written by Jennifer Paterson of “Two Fat Ladies” fame.  It is different than traditional Rarebit, which is generally a cheese sauce, in that this recipe is more of a souffle-style.

This won’t behave like what most would think of as a souffle.  It certainly doesn’t rise like one.  The souffle-style comes from the base  (cheese and egg yolks) folded into beaten egg whites which makes the topping a souffle effect.

The tomato soup is just a natural paring.

Tomato soup goes with just about everything.

Welsh Rarebit mixed with tomato soup or tomatoes is known as “Blushing Bunny”.  Huh.

 

Now.  To the recipes.

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Now, of course, with either of these recipes, you can serve them separately with a simple salad to make a nice lunch or a light dinner.  Together, they make a rather hearty end-of-day vegetarian supper.

For the Rarebit, if you want to use other cheeses or all of one or the other, go ahead.  However, cheddar is the most traditional.  Be sure to use a sharp cheddar.  Once you add the egg whites, it will neutralize the flavor of the cheese mixture, so you want a stong-tasting cheese.  Longhorn cheddar won’t do.

With summer coming up, fresh tomatoes will be abundant.  If you want to use your fresh home-grown tomatoes, by all means, do.  Use the equivalent amount to fresh tomatoes.  Depending on how “rustic” you like your soup, you can peel and seed your fresh tomatoes before using them in the soup if you prefer.  It’s up to you.

As for canned, I use Muir Glen Fire Roasted.  If you want to use your fresh tomatoes but would like the roasted flavor, you can either roast your tomatoes on the grill or slow-roast in your oven.

 

Tomato Soup:

The ingredients

The ingredients

The spices (clockwise from top): Red Pepper Flakes, ground Bleck Pepper, Kosher Salt

The spices (clockwise from top): Red Pepper Flakes, ground Black Pepper, Kosher Salt

 

2 tbsp. olive oil

1 small onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes, optional

4 tbsp. tomato paste

1 lg. (28 oz.) can tomatoes

1/4 c. balsamic vinegar

1 lg. sprig rosemary, left whole

4 c. vegetable broth

Pinch sugar

Salt & Pepper to taste

1 bunch fresh basil, julienned

Shredded Parmesan or Romano

 

1.  In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, saute the onions and garlic until the onions begin to soften, about 5 minutes.

Sauteing the onions and garlic.

Sauteing the onions and garlic.

2.  Add the red pepper flakes, if using, and cook another minute.

3.  Add the tomato paste and, stirring frequently, cook until the tomato paste begins to take on a rust-colored appearance (this indicates the sugars in the tomato paste are caramelizing).

Cooking the tomato paste. The paste is beginning to turn a burnt orange color.

Cooking the tomato paste. The paste is beginning to turn a burnt orange color.

4.  Add the tomatoes, rosemary, vinegar, broth, sugar, salt & pepper.  Stir until the soup is well mixed.  Cover and bring to a boil.  Once the soup has come to a boil, uncover, lower the heat to medium-low, and cook for 30 minutes.  Stir occasionally.

After adding the tomatoes, broth, rosemary, vinegar, and spices

After adding the tomatoes, broth, rosemary, vinegar, and spices

Bringing the soup to a boil.

Bringing the soup to a boil.

5.  After the first 30 minutes of cooking, remove the soup from the heat and remove the rosemary stem.  Let the soup cool slightly.

After 30 minutes of cooking.

After 30 minutes of cooking.

6.  With either a stand blender (in batches) or a stick blender, puree the soup.  Make it as smooth or as texture as you like.  If you want a super-smooth soup, then pour the pureed soup through a strainer.  Taste for seasoning.

Pureeing the soup with a stick blender. (I find the stick blender easier and it uses fewer dishes.)

Pureeing the soup with a stick blender. (I find the stick blender easier and it uses fewer dishes.)

7.  Put the soup back on the stove to reheat over medium heat and just bring back to a boil.  Turn off the heat and add the basil.  Set the soup aside and let the basil “steep”.

 

Adding the basil and letting it "steep" in the soup.

Adding the basil and letting it “steep” in the soup.

 

Meanwhile, while the soup is cooking, make the Rarebit.

 

The Ingredients

The Ingredients

The Spices (clockwise from top center): Paprika, Kosher Salt, Cayenne Pepper, dry Mustard, Black Pepper

The Spices (clockwise from top center): Paprika, Kosher Salt, Cayenne Pepper, dry Mustard, Black Pepper

Cheddar and Gruyere cheeses

Cheddar and Gruyere cheeses

1 c. grated extra sharp Cheddar Cheese

1 c. grated Gruyère or Emmenthal Cheese

3 eggs, separated

1/4 tsp. cream of tartar

1 tsp. dry mustard

1/2 tsp. cayenne

1/2 tsp. paprika

1 tsp. Worcestershire Sauce

Salt & pepper to taste

4 thick slices bread (sourdough or country loaf works best)

 

1.  In a large bowl mix the cheese with the egg yolks, Worcestershire, dry mustard, cayenne, paprika, salt & pepper.  Set aside.

The cheese mixed with the eggs and spices.

The cheese mixed with the eggs and spices.

2.  Preheat the oven to 450F.  Place the bread on a baking sheet lines with foil and parchment paper and toast the bread until it is lightly toasted on both sides.  Set aside.

Toasted bread.

Toasted bread.

3.  In a mixer, beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar until the whites reach stiff peak stage.

Stiffly beaten egg whites.

Perfectly beaten egg whites.

4.  Take 1/4 of the egg whites and mix them into the cheese mixture to lighten it up a bit.

Folding in the egg whites.

Folding in the egg whites.

5.  Take the remaining egg whites, 1/3 at a time, and fold them into the cheese mixture.  Don’t worry about making a homogenous mixture.  You just want to get a good mix with the cheese.

Ready for the bread. Don't worry about making a homogeneous mixture.

Ready for the bread. Don’t worry about making a homogeneous mixture.

6.  Divide the mixture evenly between the pieces of bread (there will be quite a lot).

Ready for the oven.

Ready for the oven.

 

Place the baking sheet in the oven and bake for 10  – 12 minutes or until the souffles are brown and have risen slightly.

The finished rarebit. Golden brown, slighly puffy, a little crispy.

The finished rarebit. Golden brown, slightly puffy, a little crispy.

 

Finish the meal:  By this point, the soup should be finished and the basil “steeping”.

Spoon the soup into a bowl and sprinkle some Parmesan or Romano over the top.

The finished soup.

The finished soup. Parmesan to be added.

Place one of the Rarebit on a plate.

The finsihed Rarebit.

The finished Rarebit. Molten gooddness.

Suppertime!

Supper!

Supper! Yummy, yummy supper.

 

Enjoy!

 



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